Board of Health to take member expansion to Town Meeting

On Tuesday night the Board of Health voted unanimously in favor of a potential expansion of Board members, which will need to be decided at next year’s Town Meeting.

The board is one of the only municipal groups in town that still operates at three members. Both the School Committee and Select Board currently have five members, as does the Planning Board and Zoning Board.

Board Chair Helaine Hazlett said that increasing the number of members to five would be beneficial due to the issues that can occur if one third of the current board is unable to attend a meeting.

“There are some areas that I think we could use five people,” Hazlett said. “There’s only three of us, if one has a conflict or is ill, I think that it’s difficult to run a meeting with just two people.”

Hazlett also added that with three members, they are “spreading themselves thin” and would like to see more subcommittee involvement from board members under the new five-member system.

Health Director Andrew Petty said that the next steps would be contacting Town Counsel to draft an article to be placed on the 2024 Town Meeting warrant.

Board member Tom McMahon also expressed his support for the change. He said it would help expand community engagement, something that “is lacking” under the current board, according to McMahon.

“When we talk about people feeling valued and important, it needs to go outside of this room, past those doors. I don’t think we do enough of that,” McMahon said. “Some of the decisions here have major effects on people’s lives in town, and if we’re not engaging with them and understanding, then we’re really just rubber stamping things.”

He challenged the board to increase its community engagement in the meantime.

Board member Joanne Miller also said she was excited about the possibility of expanding the board. Miller advocated for it by saying that it would encourage and bring in more diversity of thought and increase transparency.

“I think our board can benefit from a broader group toward community health improvement planning, policy, and program development and prevention activities using grants or other funding,” Miller said. “It could give us a much broader scope.”

In other board news, members were set to hear an update on the Transfer Facility project. However, Petty said that he was not presented with updates from the contractor. A meeting between Petty and the contractors was scheduled to take place on Wednesday to determine why the updates were not ready for Tuesday’s meeting.